Retain More Patients

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Patient newsletters work for dentists

Direct marketing expert, author, and speaker, Dan Kennedy, says “Every dental practice should have some kind of patient newsletter, that, at a minimum, hit their [patients’] doorstep once a month. Preferably it would be a real, printed newsletter.”

Why is that? He describes that a physical patient newsletter has a better perceived value, it plain “looks like” it has more value than an email, and it is more likely to be consumed. Email is good; our email patient-newsletter product gets you in homes every month (with open rates twice industry average), which supplements what we recommend, and that’s a QUARTERLY print mailing to patient homes.

Because that’s what our 28+ years of dental patient newsletter campaigns have informed. Our team is here and ready to help you – we can have your patient newsletter mailed next month! Call today for ideas on content and get started having fun with your newsletter again!

Did you know that people need to see a message something like 9-15 times before taking action? That’s why marketing is all about repetition and consistently “being there.” This is true for your own active patient base. They need to be reminded that you’re their dental home (no kidding), they need to be reminded and educated about your services – the best example we had was a client that was miffed when a patient arrived for their cleaning with Zoom-whitened teeth – from another provider! Because the patient “didn’t realize they offered teeth whitening.” Patients don’t really pay attention. They need education and prompting.

If you used to send a patient newsletter but let it lapse because you redirected marketing dollars, the data tells us to stop and reconsider. Did you stop using a patient newsletter, that was actually consistently working for you?

Keeping your patients informed of all you do is a proactive step that makes it easier for them to stay with you, take advantage of your elective services, refer, and review. And to get to know you on a personal level. You can share things like personal hobbies, interests, travel, updates on your family and pets – people love to hear about pets! You can share team personalities and fun facts, letting patients see behind the mask that you’re real people, just like them, people who like to have fun, work hard, deliver great dentistry, and that care.

That type of brand building cannot happen effectively using digital strategies alone. Digital consumption accelerated so much during the pandemic that businesses everywhere are dealing with online fatigue and considering tactics that can break through that digital noise. Dental offices, in particular, need to create a better connection with patients to build trust. Getting – and staying – in front of patients and their evolving expectations might just include back-to-basics approach with traditional mail.

The physicality of a printed patient newsletter is proven to have twice the impact on consumer brains over digital, and they assign more credibility and importance to the content. Plus when you hit the doorstep, you’re hitting the location where more than 90% of household decisions are made.

  • Almost 40% of people are MORE EXCITED to receive their mail every day, versus pre-pandemic
  • 76% of people TRUST mail when they want to make a purchase decision, over digital
  • Response rates are 9X higher than email, paid search, and social media

For dental offices, putting a stronger patient retention strategy into play for 2022 is almost as important as the focus on acquiring new patients. I say it like that not to downplay patient retention, you need both acquisition and retention, but new patients bring strong production and lively new business, adding a level of security and boosting long-term valuation, which cannot be underestimated or achieved with retention alone.

Every dental office loses 15-20% of their patient base annually due to natural attrition. A strong acquisition strategy is CRITICAL for growth and prosperity, but at the same time dental offices must block the backdoor – and a fairly simple and cost-effective campaign using patient newsletters is one key part of a good retention strategy. Truly, probably one of the easiest ways to add extra value to your patient experience, one that will also set you apart in the eyes of patients.

The pandemic has driven unprecedented movement of patients. Almost 30% didn’t or forgot to schedule an appointment, others shifted and are shifting providers. Right now, today as I type, the average dental practice has 25% of patients that have not returned for an appointment in over 9 months.

Could lapsing and non-scheduled patients be related to the front office staff survey data released by DentalPost this month?

  • 65% of dental office managers developed skills on the job with no formal dental practice management training
  • 57% are dissatisfied with their income
  • 20% also have a side-gig
  • Overall, the front office team respondents reporting feeling underpaid and underappreciated.

One of the leading industry consultants we work with recently said, “dentists have to pay above grade right now.” Dental offices are struggling to get and keep great talent. This is important. Disenchanted team members can have a negative impact on the customer experience and cost the practice in lost opportunity. Way back when Patient NEWS was starting out, one of our older and wiser business advisors told us to “always be culling.” Sounds harsh, but he said you can never have 100% happy and engaged staff. There will always be someone that’s a covert critic and those who lack engagement and effort. Great employees are brought down by these individuals when managers tolerate it – patients don’t want to be taken care of by people they feel don’t care.

As business owners, we can only do our best to find the best people that fit our culture in the first place, and then create a great environment. Thriving dental offices boost team morale with involvement and openness; good communications, involvement in goals and achievements, training, bonus and recognition awards, fun committees, team events, etc., and with improved morale and engagement, patients always have a better experience. Meaning company culture and team morale are part of your retention strategy.

That said, we have amazing clients and we work with many, many awesome, dedicated, and engaged front office teams all the time. You know who you are and we love you – you make our marketing work great!

So back to the 25% of lapsing patients. That means, the average dental office that has 2000 active patients – FIVE HUNDRED – are not attached. Those patients are floating out there deciding what to do next.

Imagine if those 500 patients received your beautiful patient newsletter by mail this week? I bet at least 10 would schedule!

Oh, ten patients? Who cares? You care! With an annual contribution to revenue of $1065 each, that’s another $11k you just added to your year, which would be somewhere around a 5:1 ROI! And I’m being totally conservative. Tell me, right now:

  1. How many of your patients haven’t visited in 9 months? (You can easily find out in Practice ZEBRA.)
  2. How many patients aren’t even scheduled?

Oh, and on average, a dental office is missing 35% of guarantor email addresses and 10% of cell phones, which means, if you’re not mailing a newsletter and they’re not scheduled, these patients are unlikely to be getting any contact from your practice. Industry-wide well over 50% of patients ARE NOT SCHEDULED. Uh oh.

Scary if you want to not only hold your own, but also see growth in 2022.

And that “old-fashioned” patient newsletter – it reaches 100% of your patients.

Some dentists and consultants get frustrated that our dental software, Practice ZEBRA, classifies a patient that hasn’t had a transaction in 24 months as “lost.” Well, I think they’re pretty well lost if they haven’t been in for 2 years, and due to email regulations, you can’t email those people. But you can mail your newsletter to them to reactivate!

Patient retention tactics, like patient newsletters, help to maximize patient lifetime value. You want patients to talk you up, refer, and post positive reviews. Word-of-mouth is still a very important component of practice success in 2022, and a patient newsletter is like a surprise and delight item when mailed quarterly. It’s something “exclusive” for your patients, making them feel recognized, respected, appreciated, and happier.

Kennedy says, “If you get something in the mail that you have to open up and look at, and it’s at least minimally fun and interesting, then it’s far more likely to get read and possibly even retained.” At Patient NEWS, your patient newsletters are mailed in bright-white #10 envelope, imprinted with your logo in color – yes, a very professional presentation – but also this package yields some of the highest open rates in direct mail!

And in thousands of patient surveys over the years, it averaged that over 85% of patients enjoyed and appreciated receiving their dentist’s newsletter. Newsletters really do stand out, they add value, and they differentiate your services. That’s why so many top practices still send a print patient newsletter each quarter.

Kennedy lists many benefits of mailing a patient newsletter. When it’s around in the home, the dental office is no longer a distant memory. You’ve shown patients that you care and that you’re different than other practitioners they or their family deals with.

You can’t have the excuse that it’s too much work; we take care of it all. With content that highlights your unique patient benefits, your personality, your services, and new features. With COVID, patients still want to know about protocols, their safety – they remain cautious, but they still want and enjoy fun content, like the delicious recipe we include in each edition. Those recipes are real recipes that we use and enjoy, and our editorial team always includes a little tidbit about an ingredient that helps oral health – isn’t that cool for a dental office? So easy.

And patients need oral health education. Gum disease is the silent disease, so we feel really great about our products because through our awesome patient-centric dental offices, we’re helping to education millions of people every year about the importance of oral health. The impact that good (or poor) oral health has on individuals to fight infections (or not) like COVID-19 is wildly impactful. You can tell your patients about this in your newsletters.

You know, when you email your patient newsletter monthly (we take care of all that with great content too), and mail your quarterly patient newsletter (and we take care of all the hassle), patients won’t be able to resist telling others about how great you and your team are – because this communication is VALUE-ADDED, not transactional, aka “reminder you’re due for …,” but truly a value-added effort you are making just for your patients.

There has never been a better time to secure your patient base. The dental industry is forecasted to grow exponentially in the next 5 years, and that means more competition, more special offers, and more price cutting.

When you show patients you care now, whether they’re in your office or at home, then you’ll do a better job of retaining them through a flood of competing offers. Your patients see and hear from many dental offices – driving and walking around your neighborhood, signage and billboards, from friends and family who have a stellar dental experience, online search and ads that flow into their feeds – a patient newsletter can combat all of this by “being there” with good information, valuable informational content that you drive, not what patients find online or read from a competitor. YOUR patient newsletter reaffirms that their dental office (aka you) is the authority in their field, reaffirms their dental choice is the right one, and that they want to stay connected to you.

Your quarterly customized patient newsletter, supported by your monthly email newsletter will DELIGHT YOUR PATIENTS, they reduce churn, and increase satisfaction and referrals. They work, and we provide the BEST patient newsletter system in dentistry.

So, what would you like to tell patients about in your next patient newsletter? New products, update on current services, revised policies, new staff, something about referrals, highlights about 2021 in review, your last adventure or training … we have you covered. Just call. We’re here for you!

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